Authorities are gearing up to contain violent protests after a recent spate of them in Cape Town led to parts of the city becoming temporary “no-go” zones.
JP Smith, the mayco member for safety and security, believes two “sinister forces” are behind the recent upsurge in protests in Cape Town and elsewhere in the province.
Smith said, according to the SAPS, there was a 73% upsurge in such protests in the Western Cape this year.
He blamed some of this on “former components” of the Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement, which he claimed had been “resuscitated”.
The radical group made headlines in 2013 when its leader, Andile Lili, along with eight other members, dumped faeces at Cape Town International Airport.
But Lili, who is an ardent supporter of embattled Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, rubbished the claims, saying while he supported the black people’s struggle, he would not secretly incite land grabs.
“The recent land grabs in Macassar, where 1000 shacks were built, show the urgent need for land. JP’s talking nonsense. We’ve got nothing to do with inciting land grabs. Black people are demanding land.
“We’ve got a programme and, as you know, outstanding issues with the City,” said Lili, a reference to the movement’s clash with the City over water and sanitation issues.
JP Smith File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA
Lili added that Ses’khona would be speaking to its members on Monday but declined to discuss what was on the agenda.
He said the City “had better start listening to its poor residents”.
Smith claimed he had video footage indicating that residents of the Bo-Kaap were not behind the violent protests that erupted in the historic inner city area this week.
“We have seen CCTV footage and we held meetings with the residents. They have told us that the people behind the Bo-Kaap protests do not live in the area. On the CCTV footage, people can be seen transporting tyres to the Bo-Kaap. These are gangsters,” Smith said.
He said he wanted to keep his cards close to his chest but confided that a “reliable source” had told him people were being paid to “manufacture dissent”.
“I am being discreet about my second guess. I would have to name certain individuals and right now I do not want them to know what I know,” he said.
According to Smith, 145 protests had been recorded across the province since January.
These took place in at least 34 areas, 13 of which are in the Cape Town metropole, and 141 suspects were arrested for public violence.
Smith said a high priority committee for public violence was to be set up with representatives from the SAPS, the Western Cape government, the City of Town, the National Prosecuting Authority and the province’s Special Investigations Unit.
An extra R45 million in the City’s draft budget had been earmarked to place more officers on the streets.
Smith said the City would use a water cannon to douse fires and a bulldozer to clear roads of major obstacles obstructing traffic.
SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rexwana said the SAPS had a plan but details could not be made public.
“Public Order Police members are on high alert and prepared to deal with any protest actions that can occur in the province. SAPS has plans in place to ensure the safety of communities,” said Rexwana.
Earlier this week, Parkwood, on Prince George Drive, became a no-go zone when some residents occupied vacant land and went on the rampage over a lack of housing.
Two weeks ago, Siqalo residents clashed with Colorado Park residents in Mitchells Plain, also over a lack of housing.
This week saw Golden Arrow buses set alight in Khayelitsha as well as a spike in taxi violence in Delft, actions Smith claims were intended to create racial divisions and destabilise the city.
“The violence that we have seen is purely to keep levels of panic among the public high and to drive ungovernability and instability,” Smith said.
“It is also important for people to understand that there are waiting lists (for housing) and we cannot have queue-hopping. We also cannot have a situation where the City suffers losses that run into the millions and we still expect service delivery to go ahead,” he said.
“I have women calling me on a daily basis asking me if it’s safe to go home. We cannot have this,” he said.
Mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said one reason for the violence was a “systemic” lack of communication.
“We communicate as actively as we can but there will always be someone that will say they didn’t know. We will keep on communicating housing plans,” said Herron.
He said traffic and police services would be used to unblock roads and various public transport diverted to assist stranded commuters.
On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa told editors that he did not believe the protests that had flared up in various parts of the country were orchestrated.
Ramaphosa said there had been plenty of protests before this year and the key issues were housing and service delivery needs.
On Friday the South African Human Rights Commission said violent protests would be avoided if state funds were spent in the service of ordinary South Africans.
“In the view of the commission, there is a direct link between billions being lost through irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure by those tasked with managing the finances of municipalities and the lack of service delivery which, in turn, inhibits and infringes on the rights of access to socio-economic rights of many South Africans, and has ignited so many violent and destructive protests,” the commission said in a statement.